Forsythia March 2017

Forsythia – March 2017 –  family Oleaceae (olive family) is the first breath of spring, also known as Golden Bells; it is a deciduous, fast growing shrub, deer resistant, drought tolerant, presenting graceful arching branches. Growing to an average height of 3’-10’ with a spread 10’-12’ it is identified by rough grey-brown bark and early spring blooms of bright yellow flowers lasting 2-3 weeks followed by green foliage.

Landscape Use: Grown in Hardiness Zones 4-9, Forsythia prefers full sun or partial shade with minimum 4 hours of direct unfiltered sunlight/day, thrives in well-draining soil, but hardy enough to grow in most soils. Commonly found in parks or as a garden backdrop, it requires little to no care, withstanding city conditions including air pollution. Successfully used as a specimen or in groupings, Forsythia is an excellent choice as a natural growing ornamental flowering hedge. Avoid planting if space is restricted, unless choosing compact cultivars. Before planting, verify the mature height and spread of the chosen variety and assess overhead obstructions, especially when using taller varieties, allow enough space between forsythia and other plants to accommodate its branch spreading.  Large Cultivars such as ‘Lynwood Gold’ is a heavy bloomer with bright yellow flowers and upright growth, growing 8’ to 10’ tall and 6’ to 8’ wide. Be advised that larger cultivars can turn uncontrollable if not properly maintained. Mid-size Cultivars such as ‘Show Off’, grows to 5’ to 6’ tall on upright stems used in cut flower displays. Smaller compact Cultivars such as ‘Goldilocks’, a dwarf variety, has upright spikes of golden yellow flowers, growing 24” to 36” wide and tall.

Planting and Fertilization: Forsythia may be planted any time of the year when freeze is not an issue; but is best planted in fall and moved or transplanted early winter when growth is dormant.  Planting hole should be at least two times as wide as the root ball and the same depth. Caution, not to set the root ball too deep, it should be set with the top of the root ball at ground level or slightly above.  Fill soil around root ball, securing the shrub in place and water generously to further compact soil around roots. A high phosphorous fertilizer can be applied in early spring to promote vibrant blooms but avoid upon initial planting to prevent root burn. If sandy soil is present, add several inches of organic compost.

Pruning and Propagation: Growing up to 24”/year, allow one year’s growth before pruning, which should be done immediately and generously after flowering to avoid cutting off newly forming buds. Flower buds form on previous year’s growth. Select stem removal according to shape desired, thinning out older branches, but avoid shearing.  To propagate; cut 3-6” branches from green wood after flowering in late spring to early summer and place in moist soil, rooting will occur within a few weeks, or practice ‘layering’ by weighting branches to the ground until rooted, to be cut off and dug up for replanting.

Uses: Forsythia has no known documented medicinal properties however are used to bow a Korean string instrument called an Ajaeng. Branches can be forced to bloom indoors for decorative purposes by cutting off a few branches, bringing them indoors and place is a vase with water, and in 10-14 days the branches will burst into cheerful, golden yellow blooms, brightening up your home!

Insects and Diseases: Insect and disease problems are not common; treat with an insecticide or fungicides only if necessary. Poorly drained soil may cause root rot known as Phytophthora. A canker problem called Botryosphaeria can affects any woody shrub under prolonged drought conditions. Remedy by pruning out dying branches and dispose of pruned material.